, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 489-495
Date: 11 Jul 2012

The mechanism of gall induction makes galls red

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We propose that the commonly observed red coloration of insect-induced plant galls is due to the production of exogenous cytokinins by gall-inducing insects. A growing body of evidence indicates that gall-inducing insects, bacteria, and fungi produce cytokinins. We hypothesize that gall induction generally requires an exogenous source of cytokinin and auxin. Plant galls are mobilizing sinks induced by cytokinin and reinforced by transport and accumulation of sugar. Exogenous cytokinins lead to a cascade of effects including the up-regulation of anthocyanin synthesis, the source of red coloration. Experiments demonstrate that exogenous cytokinins and sugars up-regulate the phenylpropanoid and flavonoid pathways, leading to localized anthocyanin accumulation. We suggest that red coloration in plant galls is merely a consequence of the mechanism of gall induction, and therefore an example of fabricational noise rather than aposematic coloration. Only color manipulation experiments can determine whether gall color is also secondarily aposematic.